Rory McIlroy had to birdie two of his last three holes to open with a lacklustre three-over 73 in the WGC FedEx St Jude Invitational in Memphis.
Without a top-10 finish since the PGA Tour resumed six weeks ago, the world No 2 was ranked near the back of the field for his iron play, finishing his day far behind the early leaders.
The Holywood star (31) has complained that he finds it difficult to remain focussed without galleries but former Ryder Cup skipper Paul McGinley reckons it's time he stopped making excuses.
"Talk about intensity, he doesn't have it at this moment in time," McGinley said on Sky Sports. "He hasn't had it the last five or six weeks. It's not the same Rory McIlroy we saw before.
"So he has got to figure out a way. Maybe the fact that Rahm has come in and knocked him off his perch at No 1 might help him. Maybe the fact that there's a Major championship again next week. But he is talking about not having the same desire, that's it not the same without the crowds.
"There are excuses all the time. And we are not hearing that from Rahm. He is getting stuck in. That's what you've got to do. These are different times. There are Major championships to be won, big events to be won and if you can't do it without a crowd, you have got to find a way of self-motivating and that is going to be the big challenge for McIlroy.
He added: "He's talking about not having the same desire, that's it not the same without the crowds. There are excuses all the time. And we are not hearing that from [Jon] Rahm. He is getting stuck in."
World No 1 Rahm had to battle to shoot a level par 70.
McIlroy found water short and had to make a 20 footer to bogey the par-three 11th, then three-putted the 14th to turn in two-over before dropping three shots in a row from the fourth to slip to the back of the field on five-over. He didn't give up, however, and birdied the seventh and ninth but has it all to do to catch an impressive Brooks Koepka.
Open champion Shane Lowry picked up birdies at the 15th and 16th en route to a two-under par 68.
In the opposite field Barracuda Championship, Séamus Power got off to a flying start to give himself a chance of qualifying for the FedEx Cup Playoffs and September's US Open. The top two players, not otherwise exempt, finishing in the top 10 and ties at Old Greenwood Golf Course at Tahoe Mountain Club will earn spots in the field at Winged Foot.
And the man from Tooraneena was right on track after making an eagle and four birdies in a 66 to rack up 11 modified stableford points to lie just three points behind clubhouse leader Adam Schenk.
It was a mixed day for the Irish in the Hero Open where Spain's Miguel Angel Jiménez opened with a flawless, eight-under 64 in his 707th start at the Marriott Forest of Arden.
The cigar-puffing Malagueño (56) showed off his full repertoire of shots to finish the day tied for second with compatriot Pablo Larrazábal (37) as another Spaniard, Sebastian Rodriguez Garcia (31), posted a course record 62 to set the pace.
"It's been a wonderful day, eight under par," said an emotional Jiménez as he drank a glass of wine and toasted the previous record holder, Sam Torrance via video link as players came out to the 18th to salute his achievement.
"Beautiful summer day and especially now on the 18th here with all my colleagues. Very emotional."
Ardglass' Cormac Sharvin, who leads the Irish challenge after coming home in 32 to card a two-under 70, paid tribute to Jiménez's longevity and skill.
"It's amazing how many events he has played," said the Co Down rookie, who hit a four-iron to eight feet to set up an eagle three at the 12th and get back to level par before picking up further shots at the 15th and 17th. "He makes golf look simple. Everyone can learn from that."
Clandeboye's Jonathan Caldwell birdied all four par-fives but also made three bogeys in a 71 that left him just inside the cut mark as Gavin Moynihan shot 73 and Paul Dunne a two-over 74.